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4
Aug

Apple Releases iOS 9.3.4 With ‘Important Security Update’


Apple today released an iOS 9.3.4 update for the iOS 9 operating system, just over two weeks after releasing iOS 9.3.3 and less than two months before we expect to see the public release of iOS 10, currently in beta testing.

iOS 9.3.4 is available immediately via an over-the-air download on all devices running iOS 9.

According to Apple’s release notes, iOS 9.3.4 provides “an important security update” and is recommended for all iOS 9 users.

iOS 9.3.4 is likely to be the last update to iOS 9, with iOS 10 coming in September alongside new iOS devices.

iOS 10 brings a slew of new features, including a revamped Lock screen experience, an overhauled Messages app with new functionality and its own App Store, a new Photos app with object and facial recognition, a redesigned Music app, a centralized HomeKit app, and a Siri SDK for developers.

Related Roundup: iOS 9
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4
Aug

Do this to increase your SSD’s lifespan – CNET


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Upgrade your Windows 10 PC with an SSD and be happier with your life
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Editors’ note: This article was updated on August 4, 2016 to add the latest information about solid-state drives and Windows 10 support.

If your computer still runs on a regular hard drive, it may be time to move to a solid-state drive (SSD) instead. (Here’s some instructions on how to upgrade on a PC and a Mac.) The speed gains you’ll experience from upgrading to an SSD might be more noticeable than if you bought a brand-new computer with a regular hard drive.

But is it all unicorns and lollipops with SSDs? Not quite. SSDs still fall short in a few places compared to normal hard drives, in particular regarding their write endurance. This means you can only write a finite amount of data to an SSD before you can’t write anymore. In this post, I’ll talk about this shortcoming and how to mitigate it. Most of my suggestions will be focused on Windows PCs.

Writing on a hard drives

The platter is the main component of a traditional hard drive. It’s usually made of glass or aluminum and is the portion that stores your information. It’s coated with a thin layer or metal that can be either magnetized or demagnetized. And the write process is straightforward: the read/write head of the drive hovers on top of the platter and magnetizes and demagnetizes sectors (tiny parts of the platters) into 1 or 0 values to store information in binary patterns.When you overwrite data (that is, when you write new data to an area that already contains data) the process is the same; the sectors just need to be magnetized or demagnetized differently. In other words, writing to a hard drive is always the same, no matter if the drive currently contains data or not.

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The inside of a standard 2.5-inch SSD and a standard 3.5-inch hard drive.


Dong Ngo/CNET

Writing on an SSD

Writing is totally different and much more complicated with SSDs. There are three important things to remember.

First, aside from when an SSD is brand new and contains no data, writing to an SSD is the process of erasing existing information from the flash memory cells and then programming new information onto them. No new information can be programmed to a cell unless the old data is first erased. For this reason, the process of writing to an SSD is often referred to as program/erase cycles or P/E cycles.

Second, P/E cycles are finite. Each P/E cycle exhausts the memory cell a little more, and after so many cycles it will be totally worn out and become unusable. In a way, this is similar to writing on a piece of paper using a pencil and an eraser. You can only erase the pigment so many times before the piece of paper becomes worn out or even torn and can’t be written on anymore.

And finally, memory cells are organized in pages (each page contains many cells) and blocks (each block contains many pages.) Here’s the tricky part: you can write a page at a time, but you can erase only a block at a time. Now imagine when you want to save a Word document with the changes that can fit in just one page, the SSD needs to first copy the rest of the used pages of the containing block to another place, erase the entire block, then program (or write) all of those pages and the page with the new information. This is called Write Amplification — meaning generally an SSD needs to write a lot more than the actual amount of data you want to write — which further use up its P/E cycles.

Wear leveling

Now before you let out a “D’oh!” and return your beloved, recently purchased SSD, be aware that the number of potential P/E cycles for an SSD is exponentially larger than that of a sheet of paper. In addition, modern SSDs have technologies that increase write efficiency and reduce wear on its storage cells. Among these technologies, the most important is the “wear-leveling” algorithms that effectively make sure all the drive’s memory chips are used up, cell by cell, before the first cell can be written to again. This also means that SSDs of larger capacities generally have longer life spans than do smaller ones.

So how long is long? To help users estimate how long an SSD will last, most SSD manufacturers present the drive’s endurance by the amount of data that can be written to the drive. For example, the 750GB Crucial MX300 has an endurance of 220TBW, meaning you can write 220 terabytes of data to the drive before it becomes unreliable. To put this in perspective, if you write 50GB of data per day every day to the drive, it will take you some 12 years to wear it out. Most other SSDs have similar or better endurance ratings.

Most of us actually write just a fraction of 50GB of data — which is about two Blu-ray discs’ worth — on our computer’s host drive on a daily basis, and many days we don’t write anything at all. Note that watching movies, reading PDF files, or viewing photos doesn’t count as writing; that’s reading, which has no effect on an SSD’s life expectancy. Only activities like copying music from another drive, downloading files, editing files, or backing up your phone, and so on require you to write to the drive.

That said, if you use an SSD the way you would a hard drive, chances are it will still last longer than a regular hard drive would. But you can do more.

What you can do

To maximize the life span of an SSD, apart from making an effort to reduce unnecessary copying of files, downloading of data, and so on, you should note that there are a few operating system (OS) settings, as well as common tasks designed for regular hard drives, that shouldn’t be used with SSDs. For Windows computers, these are described below.

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It’s good to turn off hibernation on a computer that uses an SSD as its main drive.


Dong Ngo/CNET

Benchmarking: Most of us want to find out just how fast our new SSD is by copying files from one place to another or using disk-benchmarking software. While this is fun, and the information is useful to know, it does wastes the drive’s P/E cycles. Avoid it if you can.

Hibernation: Most operating systems have a hibernation feature. During hibernation, the contents of the system memory (the place where currently running programs and information still being processed reside) are written to the computer’s internal storage device (your hard drive or SSD) before the computer is powered off. When the computer is restarted, the system reloads the saved content back into the system memory, and hence restores the computer to the state it was in before it was turned off. Once the loaded, the saved content is deleted from storage.

As you can imagine, the hibernation process can use gigabytes of storage space over time, which translates to a large amount of writing on the internal storage. More specifically, a computer with 4GB of RAM requires some 4GB of storage space to create a hibernation file. Sometimes a computer goes into hibernation by itself, but you can avoid this by completely turning off the hibernation function. Here’s how:

  • On the Start Menu, look for “Command Prompt,” and right-click it.
  • Choose “Run as administrator,” and answer “yes” to the User Account Control security prompt. (This is called running “elevated Command Prompt.” Note the procedure, as you will use it again below.)
  • When the Command Prompt window appears, type in powercfg -h off and then press Enter.

That’s it — your computer will never go into hibernation mode again. To turn this feature back on, repeat this process and type powercfg -h on before pressing Enter.

A computer that’s equipped with an SSD generally boots really quickly, so you can always just save your work and turn it off. Avoiding hibernation also helps the system run more smoothly.

AHCI and TRIM commands: AHCI, which stands for “advanced host controller interface,” allows the operating system to access the storage faster and use some advanced functions. One of these functions is the TRIM command, which allows a supported operating system to actively inform the SSD which blocks of data are no longer in use and can be wiped. This helps the drive work more efficiently, reduce the effect of Write Amplification, and ultimately leads to faster performance and a longer lifespan.

Generally, both AHCI and TRIM are enabled by default. You can check and change the former in the computer’s BIOS setting. It varies depending on your computer, but with most systems you can enter the BIOS by tapping the Delete or F2 key as the computer boots up. Here, look for the storage section and change the value of “Configure SATA as” to “AHCI” (if it’s not already AHCI). It’s better to do this before you install the operating system, otherwise you’ll need to install the storage drivers first before changing the value. Note that if you use two SSDs in a RAID configuration, then the RAID value (rather than AHCI) should be selected. Also if your computer doesn’t have option for RAID or AHCI, but only IDE, then it’s too old — time to shop for a new computer.

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The TRIM command enhances the performance of SSDs with Windows.


Dong Ngo/CNET

You can determine if TRIM is working by running elevated Command Prompt as described above in the hibernation section, then executing this command: fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify. If the command returns “DisableDeleteNotify = 0”, then TRIM is running. If not, you can turn it on by executing fsutil behavior set disabledeletenotify 0.

If your Mac comes with an SSD, then TRIM is always enabled. However, if you install your own SSD on a Mac, make sure you follow this How-to post to enable TRIM.

Defragmentation: On hard drives, information stored on the outer part of the platter can generally be accessed faster than information stored on the inner part (the part close to the center of the platter). This is because physically, like a wheel, the platter moves faster the farther away it is from the spindle. For this reason, defragmentation, a process that reorganizes data by moving it toward the outer part of the platter and putting files in contiguous regions, helps improve a hard drive’s performance.

On an SSD, however, as there are no moving parts, information stored on the drive is equally accessible regardless of its location on the drive. This means defragmentation is unnecessary. And since to defragment basically means moving data from one place to another, it uses up the drive’s P/E cycles.

With Windows 10, Microsoft tends to automatically exclude SSDs from the list of drives that are defragmented on a schedule, though this is not always the case. To be sure, you can turn off the scheduled defragmentation by running Disk Defragmenter (it can be found in the Start Menu or via a quick search) and clicking on Configure Schedule. The rest is self-explanatory. And, of course, refrain from manually running defragmentation on an SSD.

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Disabling Superfetch helps reduce writing to the drive.


Dong Ngo/CNET

Superfetch: This is a technology, first introduced in Windows Vista, that allows Windows to more efficiently manage system memory and preload frequently accessed data and applications into the memory for faster performance. However, this process requires Superfetch’s cache to be written on the drive and updated regularly, which increases the amount of writing to the drive.

If your computer uses a hard drive, Superfetch is useful. For an SSD, however, it’s not necessary and only wastes the drive’s P/E cycles.

To disable Superfetch, run the Command Prompt and execute the services.msc command. This will open the Services utility. Next, on the list, look for Superfetch, then double-click it and disable it.

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How to optimize Page File in Windows 10.


Dong Ngo/CNET

Page File (aka virtual memory): In OSes such as Windows 10, the Page File is like a system memory wannabe. In a nutshell, the Page File is the amount of storage space on an internal storage device that the OS reserves for use when an application requires more physical memory (RAM) than the computer is equipped with.

The Page File’s size tends to change dynamically, resulting in frequent writing to the drive, which, again, is not good for an SSD. So if you use a computer with 8GB of RAM or more, and you generally don’t run lots of concurrent programs, it might be a good idea to turn off Page File completely. However, the best practice is to set it at a fixed size recommended by the system. Or if you’re on a desktop with an SSD as its primary drive and a secondary hard drive, it’s best to move the Page File to the hard drive and disable it on the SSD.

To change the setting of Windows 10’s Page File, follow these steps:

  • Right-click on Windows’ Start button
  • Select System
  • Click on Advanced System Settings
  • Choose Advanced tab
  • Click on the top Settings… button (under the Performance section)
  • Choose Advanced tab
  • Click on Change
  • Uncheck the box that reads “Automatically mange paging file size for all drives
  • Check the Custom size radio button
  • Enter the Initial size and Maximum size with the value of the number following the Recommended:
  • at the bottom of the window
  • Click on the OK buttons to close the Windows, and choose to Restart the computer.

Don’t stress

That’s it. After all that, you can rest assured that you’ve done nearly all that can be done to make your SSD work at its most optimal and last as long as possible. Again, note that these are just precautions; if you simply use an SSD the way you do a hard drive, chances are it will still last for a very long time. The latest operating systems all come equipped with SSD-friendly settings that help reduce unnecessary writing. So for most of us, there’s not much to worry about other than how to put an SSD’s superfast speed to good use.

4
Aug

Track your mileage for free with Everlance – CNET


CNET’s Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.

Recently I wrote about apps you can use to track your mileage, noting that my preferred choice was MileIQ. It’s not free, but the excellent interface and seamless automation got me thinking it was worth the money.

I’m glad I didn’t sign up for an annual subscription, though, because I found an alternative: Everlance, a totally free mileage tracker. It’s available for iOS now, and Android users can request early access on the developer’s home page.

Update, August 4:Everlance is now available for Android in the Google Play Store!

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Everlance

Back in the old days, you tracked your mileage (a very important task for freelancers or anyone who gets travel reimbursements from their employer) by writing odometer readings in a little notebook — assuming you actually remembered to do so, of course. Then you had to transcribe all that data into a form or spreadsheet or whatever. Bleh.

Thanks to modern phones and apps, you don’t have to mess with any of that anymore. Everlance will automatically record your trips, then generate a report you can use for reimbursement or tax filing.

As I said, lots of apps can do likewise, but nearly all of them cost money — either up front or on a subscription basis. The cheaper ones tend to have clunky interfaces, or at least require more manual input regarding each trip.

Everlance, like MileIQ, makes trip classification super easy. For each recorded drive (represented as a “card” that shows a map of the route), swipe right if you were driving for work or left if it was for personal or some other reason. Bam. Done. Do this once a day or once a week or whenever.

The app also lets you manually log expenses (complete with receipt photos) and revenue.

There are a few limitations, of course. Your only data-export option is a CSV file (delivered via email), and the app can’t automatically classify drives based on, say, the time of day. It would be nice, too, if you could turn off automatic drive-detection at certain times to help minimize the battery impact.

Speaking of which, Everlance will definitely take its toll on battery life, though based on my brief tests, it uses less power than many other background apps (such as GroupMe and Facebook).

I realize not everyone needs to track their mileage. If you do, Everlance is by far the best option I’ve found, combining a simple, attractive interface with a price that’s impossible to beat.

Update, August 4:I’ve been using Everlance for the past several months, and it has earned a permanent spot on my phone. The developers have added some valuable new features, including an easy way to specify round-trip drives and automatic “favorite places” detection. Unfortunately, the app is still missing the time-of-day features I noted above. Even so, there’s no better free app for tracking your mileage.

4
Aug

8 things Microsoft still needs to fix in Edge – CNET


Microsoft Edge got a decent update in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update — the browser now supports extensions (though only a handful are available at launch), tab-pinning, drag-and-drop, swipe navigation and click-to-play Flash video. But is Edge ready to take on browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox?

Not exactly. Edge does have a few tricks up its sleeve — it’s the only Windows browser that supports 1080p Netflix streaming and native Windows Hello integration — but it still lacks features that users have come to expect from modern browsers.

Poor tab management

Rearranging tabs in Edge is not as easy as it should be; it’s too easy to accidentally grab a tab off the tab bar and open a new window. You can’t easily place a tab at the end of the tab bar — you need to drag it over to the middle of the tab bar (between at least two other tabs) before the last position will open up.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Also, when you open a new tab in Edge, the address bar disappears. You can get it back by clicking on the area where the address bar should be, but…what’s up with this, Microsoft?

No mute tab option

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Edge does not let you mute a tab.


Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Edge does show a speaker icon on the tab that’s making noise, but there’s no option to mute that tab from the tab bar.

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But Chrome (and other browsers) do let you mute tabs!


Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

In other browsers, right-clicking the noise-making tab will give you the option to mute that tab from a drop down menu.

No theme support

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Not everyone wants themes…but some people do. Edge only offers two ultra-simple theme options — light and dark — while Chrome and Firefox offer hundreds. Edge doesn’t allow for much user customization at all, actually.

Weak sync game

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Edge does offer some syncing across devices: You can set up the browser to sync your favorites and your reading list (though you will need to turn device syncing on in the Settings menu before this option becomes available). But you can’t sync browser history, open tabs, or passwords, which makes Edge an iffy choice for people who use multiple devices.

Single-platform

Edge works on Windows 10…and only Windows 10. If you’re 100 percent Windows 10, all the time, this is great news (assuming you don’t mind the lack of open tab syncing), but if you use even one non-Windows 10 device, it’s less than ideal. If you’re looking for a browser that will work on all your devices, including your Windows 7 devices, Edge is not it.

No tab history

In the Anniversary Update, Microsoft did bring a handy right-click history menu to the back (and forward) buttons — right-click the back button, and you’ll be able to quickly select a page in your recent history to jump to. But there’s no tab history, which means you can’t find recently closed tabs in your browser history (you’ll just see a list of your overall history).

For power-tab users like me, this is a deal breaker — I’m always closing tabs by accident. Luckily, Edge does allow you to reopen recently-closed tabs by right-clicking a current tab and clicking Reopen closed tab, or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + T.

No full screen mode

I hope you like Edge’s themeless menu and title bars, because they’re always there. Edge has no full screen mode (though it does have a reading mode, which still displays the title and menu bars).

No context

Edge’s right-click context menus are very sparse compared to other browsers’ menus. Right-click the Edge icon from the taskbar, and you’ll see just three options: Open Edge, unpin the icon from the taskbar, and close window. Right-click another browser’s icon from the taskbar, and you’ll see options that let you open new windows, tabs, or private browsing windows.

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Edge’s in-browser right-click context menu.


Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Right-click anywhere inside a webpage on Edge, and the context menu is still very simple: Select all and print.

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Firefox’s in-browser right-click menu.


Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Right-click inside a webpage on Chrome or Firefox and you’ll see tons of options, from back/forward/refresh to view page source.

4
Aug

Nintendo Pokemon Go Plus Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


You want to be the very best, like no one ever was. But you don’t want to be nose-deep in your phone instead of interacting with the world.

That’s why Nintendo devised another way to play the uber-popular Pokemon Go: a $35 or £35 wearable gadget that can quietly alert you to nearby Pokemon. (We don’t have an Australian price yet, but the UK price converts to about AU$60.)

It’s called the Pokemon Go Plus, and it sounds dead simple to use. You wear it like a wristband, or pin it to your pocket, purse, lapel or sleeve. It pairs with your compatible iPhone or Android phone over a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, and connects to your Pokemon Go app.

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The Pokemon Go Plus.


Nintendo

Then, instead of constantly pulling out your phone to scan for Pokemon, you just walk around town like a normal human being. Whenever you’d normally stumble across a Pokemon, the Go Plus will light up instead.

Press that light-up button, and — without needing to pull out your phone — the game will automatically throw a Poke ball to try to catch it for you. (Just so long as you’ve caught a Pokemon of that type before.)

It should work for PokeStops, too: if you walk past one, the device should light up and vibrate. Press it, and you can harvest the same items (balls, potions, berries) that would have been waiting for you if you’d activated it from within the game.

Humans of Pokemon Go
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Sound good? Thing is, the Pokemon Go craze may be over (or drastically smaller) by the time you get your hands on Nintendo’s gadget. Originally, the device was supposed to ship in late July, but Nintendo pushed it back to September.

In the meanwhile, you’ll just have to keep on using your phone.

Or a smartwatch, if Nintendo and the game’s developer Niantic stop cracking down on third-party apps. I used Pokedetector for my Pebble watch (also on Android Wear) and it seemed to work reasonably well — until the app got pulled from the Google Play Store.

We’re looking forward to checking out the Pokemon Go Plus in the weeks ahead.

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4
Aug

Mando Footloose IM review – CNET


The Good The Mando Footloose IM has a modern design and its all-electric drive makes for a totally effortless commute.

The Bad The lack of chain means you can’t ride the bike when the battery runs out making pedalling an odd sensation

The Bottom Line The Footloose IM may well get you into the office without breaking a sweat, but you’re taking a big risk on a bike you won’t be able to ride when the battery drains.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

The Mando Footloose IM is by far the most unusual e-bike I’ve ridden.

The reason being that it has no chain. Instead, it is entirely propelled by its electric motor. You mount the bike as normal and begin pedalling. But rather than moving the wheels, the pedalling motion simply tells the motor it’s time to start moving.

If you start pedalling quickly — when you’re setting off from a standstill at traffic lights, for example — your legs will simply flail until the motor realises what’s happening and kicks in to send you on your way. It’s an odd sensation and not one that I particularly like. It’s disconcerting having a delay between your pedalling and having the bike actually set off. Perhaps it’s something you’d get used to after a while.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The main drawback of the all-electric drive, though, is that once you run out of charge, your fancy bike isn’t going anywhere. The act of pedalling turns an alternator to help power the battery, but the maximum range Mando says you’ll achieve is 37 miles from a single charge. That’s probably enough for both legs of your daily commute. But even so, you’ll want to recharge it every night to make sure it doesn’t cut out on you while you’re trying to weave your way through traffic.

As the Footloose IM is such a modern take on the humble bicycle, there’s no surprise that it has a daring design to match. Its curving metal body, minimalist aesthetic and bright colour scheme certainly stand out from other bikes on the road. Once you get going it’s very comfortable to ride as well — you certainly won’t break a sweat cycling to work.

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It’s a compact size, but at a little over 21kg, it’s a hefty thing, so you won’t relish carrying it up and down the stairs to your flat each day. There’s an easy alternative, though. Park your bike in a lock-up downstairs and simply carry the battery into your flat to plug it into the wall.

While the comfortable, all-electric Footloose IM allows you to zoom through the city with ease, I’m put off by the way it becomes unrideable once the battery runs out. Yes, you’ll enjoy an effortless cycle each morning, but is that worth the risk of running out of steam on the way? Personally, I’d rather sacrifice a touch of comfort and have more peace of mind for the asking price. You’ll pay £2,000 or $3,000 for the Footloose IM. It’s not available in Australia, but the UK price converts to about AU$3,455.

4
Aug

Sony H.ear On Wireless NC review – CNET


The Good The Sony H.ear On Wireless NC is a comfortable premium wireless Bluetooth headphone that sounds impressive for a Bluetooth headphone, performs well as a headset for making calls, and offers effective noise cancellation that adapts to your surroundings.

The Bad Headphones fold up but don’t fold flat; when folded up in carrying case, package is slightly bulky; somewhat expensive.

The Bottom Line Priced to compete with Bose’s QuietComfort 35, the comfortable H.ear On Wireless NC offers impressive sound and noise canceling that make it a strong contender in the category.

I’ve been a little underwhelmed by Sony’s wireless headphone offerings in the past, but the H.ear On Wireless NC headphone ($350; ‎£220; AU$500) may be its best Bluetooth headphone to date.

The headphone, which is also known as the MDR-1ABN, is very comfortable, although at 10.25 ounces or 290 grams it’s a little heavier than Bose’s QuietComfort 35 and isn’t quite as comfortable as that model. But at least it’s a close contest, and most people shouldn’t have a problem wearing this headphone for long stretches.

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The H.ear On Wireless NC comes in five different colors, some of which are very eye-catching.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The H.ear On Wireless NC folds up into an included carrying case. However, it doesn’t fold flat, so the case ends up being a little bulky and I didn’t find this to be the most comfortable headphone to walk around with wearing around your neck (I usually don’t comment on what a headphone feels like when it’s off your ears, but that perspective has become part of the headphone wearing experience as headphones have become fashion accessories).

The headphone comes in five different colors, some of which are very eye-catching, including the blue version I reviewed (though it looks more like teal to me). The finish looks great but I’m not sure how it will hold up over time. A ding here or there could end up looking like a real blemish. (I’m personally very careful with review samples, but some people are harder on their headphones.)

Volume and track controls are on the right earcup and you can opt to turn the noise canceling on or off or plug in a cord if you wish to use this as a wired headphone. Sony says its Automatic AI Noise Cancelling function constantly analyzes environmental ambient sound components and automatically selects the most effective noise canceling mode.

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Close-up of the integrated remote (foreground) and NC activation button.


Sarah Tew/CNET

I thought the noise canceling was excellent, though a touch less effective than Bose’s. I wore the Sony in the streets of New York, on the subway, and in an open office environment with a fan blowing in my face. Like the Bose, it doesn’t completely eliminate ambient noise, but it muffles it considerably. Also important: you don’t get the audible hiss you get from some lesser noise-canceling headphones; it’s ever so faint when no music is playing. (Note: some people are sensitive to the feeling of pressure that noise-canceling headphones inherently exhibit, and are unable to use them).

The H.ear On Wireless NC also makes for a good headset for making cell phone calls, and it has two built-in microphones, one outside and one inside the housing. The Bose QC35 and Sennheiser PXC 550 place more emphasis on this aspect of the headphone’s performance, and as far headset use goes, they have a little more business-class feel to them. But the Sony isn’t far behind.

4
Aug

Galaxy Note 7 ships with Marshmallow, not Nougat — but maybe that’s not a huge deal


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The Note 7 runs Android 6.0.1 out of the box — which, for the time being, is still the latest stable version of the OS. But even without Nougat, Note owners aren’t missing out on that much.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 lands at a precarious time on the Android calendar. We’re just reaching the end of the Marshmallow era, with final Android 7.0 Nougat code likely to be released in a matter of weeks. By the time the Note 7 hits store shelves in some countries, it could already be running an “old” version of the OS. That’s sure to provide ammunition for Samsung’s rivals (like a certain Cupertino-based company with a phone launch coming up in September). But are regular consumers really missing out on all that much? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s look at the major user-facing features. Multi-window is a big deal, but something Samsung has offered on its phones since 2012’s Note 2. Granted, Samsung’s implementation works with far fewer apps, but on the flip side you also benefit from pop-up mode, Samsung’s freeform window feature.

Multi-window, display scaling, Vulkan graphics and VR are already supported by Samsung on Marshmallow.

Display scaling, also coming natively in Nougat, allowing you to fit more on screen for improved display density. But this is something Samsung has already offered since shortly after the Galaxy S7 launch.

Android 7.0 brings support for the new Vulkan graphics APIs for faster, more battery-friendly gaming performance, but Samsung already offers this on Marshmallow. And when it comes to VR, the Note will miss out on support for Google’s Daydream platform, but with a new Gear VR accompanying the device, and Samsung already having built out its own VR ecosystem with Oculus, it’s not like Note owners don’t have lots of great VR experiences to choose from.

note7-unpacked-london.jpg?itok=qw-mnol3

Nor should the Note 7 be any less secure on Marshmallow, with Android security patches being offered on a monthly basis for all current version of the OS. Samsung, for its part, has done a good job of keeping the GS6 and GS7 up to date with the latest fixes, even within the U.S. carrier system. We’d expect them to do the same with the Note.

Granted, there are plenty of important system-level changes that aren’t present, like support for Java 8 features, seamless over-the-air updates, and … updated emoji! And there are other user-facing tricks like data saver mode and bundled notifications with direct replies for which Note 7 owners will need to wait on a system update. But Samsung has a surprising number of bases already covered in its Marshmallow-based firmware.

Samsung’s rivals are preparing to ship Nougat.

Nevertheless, many of Samsung’s competitors will be launching with Nougat — most notably LG, which has confirmed its V20 will ship with the new version, HTC, which is widely rumored to be making this year’s Nexuses, and Huawei, whose Nougat-based EMUI 5 is likely to break cover on a future “Mate” device. Next to its Android-based competition, Samsung’s next big thing could very soon start to look dated.

Short of delaying the Note’s launch later into September, there’s not a lot Samsung could’ve done to avoid this predicament. But it’ll be really interesting to see how quickly it follows up with a Nougat update for the Note 7.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 hands-on preview
  • The latest Galaxy Note 7 news!
  • Here are all four Note 7 colors
  • Complete Galaxy Note 7 specs
  • The Galaxy Note 7 uses USB-C
  • Join the Note 7 discussion in the forums!

Verizon
AT&T
T-Mobile
Sprint

Android Nougat

nougat.jpg

Android N (currently in Developer Preview status) is now Android Nougat! It’s the 12th nicknamed version of Android and will be released to the public in the fall of 2016. Here’s everything you need to know so far!

  • What’s new in Android Nougat
  • All Android Nougat news
  • Should you use the Android N Dev Preview?
  • About the Android Beta Program
  • Join the Discussion

4
Aug

Gamescom 2016: All the launches, games and consoles to expect


There are many that think E3 is the biggest videogames show in the world, but that’s because they’ve never experienced Gamescom.

The German games convention is massive. And it’s open to the public, which adds an all-new dynamic to the event. E3 is a strictly trade-only affair, but you’re just as likely to bump into a fan dressed as Pikachu as a journalist or industry type at Gamescom.

Its closer proximity to the holiday season also makes the show a better place to get hands-on with the triple-A titles coming out for Christmas. They have been in development longer, so those that you could only observe at E3 have a better chance of being playable in Cologne.

So here’s our guide to those games and others that you can expect to be at this year’s show, plus any press conferences and other tidbits you should keep an look out for.

  • Best games coming in 2016: All the latest PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC and PS VR trailers
  • Xbox One S review: Best console and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player out there
  • 37 best PS4 games every gamer should own
  • 37 best Xbox One games every gamer should own

What is Gamescom?

Gamescom started in 2009 and is held annually at the Koelnmesse convention centre in Cologne, Germany. It generally runs in mid-August.

The first day is for trade and media only, which will be held on Wednesday 17 August this year. The show then opens to the public too on Thursday 18 August and runs until Sunday 21 August.

Some companies have press conferences and events on the Tuesday ahead of the show opening, although these have shrunk in number over the years.

Microsoft

Gamescom 2016 press conferences to look out for

Although it traditionally holds a Gamescom press conference each year, Microsoft has announced that it will not be hosting a streamed Xbox Media Briefing in Cologne in 2016. Instead, it will be hosting an Xbox FanFest, which will run throughout the show.

Sony pulled out of hosting a press conference last year and is highly unlikely to reinstate it for 2016. It could once again favour a European Media Briefing for Paris Games Week, as it did in 2015. PGW will be held in France from 27 October.

Another company that also usually hosts a press conference at Gamescom is Electronic Arts, although it too has decided to do something different. Like at E3, it is holding a “Grand Opening” on the day preceding the show – Tuesday 16 August in this case. It kicks off at 6pm CET (5pm GMT) although there’s currently no word on whether there will be a short keynote beforehand.

We’ve not heard of any other major press conferences yet, but will update as we do.

Gamescom 2016 security

Because of multiple shocking events around Europe security will be tighter at Gamescom than usual. Visitors are being requested to leave bags and rucksacks at home. Bag checks will be held at all entrances, so there will be delays getting into the Koelnmesse.

In addition, cosplayers are being told not to bring imitation weapons, no matter how soft or outrageous they might look. They will not be allowed into the building.

Gamescom 2016: Exhibitors

There are 100s of exhibitors booked into Gamescom. Here are some of the bigger names that will have games available to play at the show.

  • 1C Company
  • 505 games
  • Activision
  • Amazon
  • Anki
  • Bandai Namco
  • Bethesda
  • Blizzard
  • Capcom
  • CD Projekt
  • Crytek
  • Deep Silver
  • Electronic Arts
  • Facebook
  • Focus Home Interactive
  • Frontier
  • Gameloft
  • Gigabyte
  • GOG
  • Google
  • Harmonix
  • Kalypso
  • Konami
  • Logitech
  • Microsoft
  • Nintendo
  • Nordic Games
  • Nvidia
  • Oculus VR
  • Plantronics
  • Razer
  • Rebellion
  • Sega
  • Sennheiser
  • Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Square Enix
  • Take-Two
  • Team 17
  • Turtle Beach
  • Ubisoft
  • Wargaming
  • Warner

Sony Computer Entertainment

Gamescom 2016: Games

There will, of course, be plenty of games to play and see at Gamescom. Here are a few of the highlights we expect to be there. Some have already been officially confirmed, others we’ve taken an educated guess about.

One or two of them are even out soon after the show finishes.

  • Batman: Arkham VR (PS VR)
  • Battlefield 1 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Civilization VI (PC)
  • Destiny: Rise of Iron (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Dead Rising 4 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)
  • Far Point (PS VR)
  • FIFA 17 (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One, PC)
  • Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, PC)
  • God of War (PS4)
  • Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (Xbox One, PC)
  • Halo Wars 2 (Xbox One, PC)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
  • Mafia III (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • PES 2017 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Planet Coaster (PC)
  • Pokemon Sun and Moon (3DS)
  • ReCore (Xbox One, PC)
  • Rock Band: Rivals (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Sea of Thieves (Xbox One)
  • Skylanders Imaginators (Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U)
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Star Trek: Bridge Crew (PS VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
  • Steep (Xbox One, PS4, PC) 
  • Titanfall 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • The Elder Scrolls: Legends (PC, iOS, Android)
  • The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Special Edition (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • The Last Guardian (PS4)
  • Watch Dogs 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • Worms W.M.D. (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
  • WWE 2K17 (Xbox One, PS4)

We’ll add to this list as we find out more.

Gamescom 2016: Consoles and hardware

As you will see below, we do not expect any next generation consoles to appear at Gamescom, from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. Instead, we suspect all hardware stories to centre around virtual reality and gaming PCs.

Here are the products we’ll be hoping to check out while we’re there.

Pocket-lint

PlayStation VR

With the official release date getting close, we fully expect the PlayStation VR headset to have a strong presence at Gamescom this year – much like it did at E3 in June.

Oculus Touch

We know for sure that Oculus will be focusing on its new games and specifically the ones with Oculus Touch support. The motion controllers that work with the Rift headset will be released before the end of 2016, so it will be good to use them with some of the forthcoming titles, rather than just a tech demo as before.

Xbox One S

Even though the 2TB launch edition is now available, we’re still to find out release dates for the 500GB and 1TB variants. Maybe they will both be at Gamescom and Microsoft will reveal availability.

HP gaming and VR PCs

HP will show its all-new gaming portfolio at this year’s Gamescom, including the Omen X VR PC that comes in a backpack.

Logitech G range

Logitech is planning some exciting new launches as part of its G range of accessories.

Gamescom 2016: What we won’t see

Sadly, although there will be plenty to see at the show, it is unlikely that some things will be launched during Gamescom this year. Here are some of the things we’d love to see but are very unlikely to appear.

Project Scorpio

Microsoft has already said that it will be launching its next generation console – one that’s far superior to the existing Xbox One, even the Xbox One S – in 2017, so you won’t get even a whiff of it at Gamescom 2016.

PlayStation Neo

Although PlayStation boss Andrew House confirmed ahead of E3 that a new, 4K capable console was coming, it wouldn’t make an appearance during the June show. It is also highly unlikely to be at Gamescom either, especially considering Sony has no press conference scheduled.

Nintendo NX

Nintendo always has a reduced presence at Gamescom in comparison to E3 and this year will likely be the same. It has also previously revealed that while it will give details of its next generation console at some point this year, it is almost certainly going to do so in a pre-recorded Nintendo Direct video online on another date.

4
Aug

Strava’s safety ‘Beacon’ shows friends where you’re training


Strava has added a safety feature to its running and cycling app that we’re surprised isn’t more common. “Beacon” lets up to three friends see exactly where you’re biking or running, even if they don’t have the app have the app installed. On top of showing a map, It will them know if you’ve stopped for a long period, if your battery is low or if you’re out of network range.

To activate the Beacon, you just turn it on and send a text to your contacts with the tracking link. You can also shoot them a message at any time during your run via the app. Strava already tracks every user anyway and sells the anonymized data to businesses, government and others, so the feature likely wasn’t hard to implement. Beacon is only available to premium subscribers (on iOS or Android), who pay a fairly steep $6 per month or $60 a year for personalized coaching, live feedback and more.

Via: The Verge

Source: Strava

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